‘Uncertain times’ – two words frequently uttered but never before have they meant so much with Covid-19 threatening our way of life as well as our lives. Nonetheless, life continues, and so we must all try our best to keep calm and carry on. My business is about minimising uncertainties when the worst happens. Leaving a will is one of the ways you can reduce some of the impact of death on your family and friends.
But perhaps you are thinking about writing a will and you are concerned about how to remain safe during the pandemic? Your concerns might be around consultations with social distancing, or the passing about of materials for signing. I join you in this hesitation. It is a worrying time for everyone, and I do not exclude myself from this. This is why I am taking extra care in all my dealings with you. I am determined to remain at your service, now is as important as any other. Will writing services must continue as normal.
In order for your will to be legally valid, there are specific conditions which must be met when your will is signed.
- The will needs to be in writing.
- The will needs to be signed by the person making the will (the testator) in the presence of two independent witnesses (who must be present at the same time).
- The witnesses must each sign the will in the presence of the person making it.
With that in mind, I will try to address any concerns that you might have regarding keeping yourself protected during this unsettled time.
Is now, during a pandemic, the right time to write a will? Should I wait?
You may feel that this is not urgent, that it can wait. But should it? Of course, that is entirely up to you. However, I know from experience that death is unpredictable, and it is not waiting for the pandemic to be over. The famous quote made by Benjamin Franklin, “nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes” endures. Life and death continue despite the current circumstances. No one expects to contract the virus, much less die from it, but this is no different from any other time in our lives. It’s always better to be prepared for anything, and once it’s done, you can put it out of your mind, one less thing to worry about.
Anxious about face to face meetings?
To keep any contact to a minimum, most consultations can be held via video conferencing, or telephone. The purpose of these meetings is to gather your information, to discuss your plans and concerns, for you to ask me any questions. For all of us, this is the safest way to conduct any meeting. However, I do understand that sometimes this isn’t possible if you are not comfortable using this technology, not everyone is. In which case, I am happy to come to you, or you can come to me. Under these circumstances, rest assured, I have a full Covid-19 policy in place.
This policy has meticulous details about how we can conduct the meeting with every precaution taken. You can find the policy here (insert link). Whether we meet at my office or your home, we will phone you to confirm the appointment the day before and if you have any apprehensions you can talk it through with us.
Worried about signing a will in person?
As a result of the pandemic, the government has introduced virtual execution provisions via the Wills Act 1837 (Electronic Communications)(Amendment)(Coronavirus) Order 2020. This will mean that all wills signed by video conference or other visual transmission between 31 January 2020 and 31 January 2022, will still be validly executed as long as “the quality of the sound and video is sufficient to see and hear what is happening”. Yet, it is my professional opinion that signing a will “in person” is still the most secure way of ensuring that your wishes are clearly understood and the remote signing procedure detailed above should only be used as a “last resort”. Where something as important as this is concerned, I am most anxious to remember the number of wills that are now contested, and to do everything possible to ensure that anything I draft is watertight. With all this in mind, I recommend that the signing be done in person, with witnesses, but also taking the utmost care with regard to all formalities. For example, always remember that if a beneficiary or a spouse of a beneficiary witnesses your will, they can no longer receive the gift in the will and so should be avoided.
What if I am self-isolating?
If you are in total isolation the current advice is to have your witnesses watch you sign your will through a window, to pass the will through and watch them sign their details in the same way. They can then pass the will back through the window and it’s all done. Of course, if this is absolutely not possible, then you are able to rely on the video witnessing procedure set out above.
I completely understand that anyone might prefer a ‘wait and see’ approach to will writing, with a natural reluctance to discuss death, as well as the pandemic, and those two things together make anyone uncomfortable. But I would like to reassure you if at all possible, and so I remain at your disposal for any further information, or if I can help to put your mind at ease while we all try to carry on as best we can during these unprecedented times.